Disappointment with Programme for Government
The Programme for Government produced by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Green Party promises a lot that is encouraging, but on the issue of US military use of Shannon Airport - which the majority of Irish people oppose - it is disappointing.
The change of government provided an opportunity to end Irish complicity in the ongoing cycles of war and occupation that have been responsible for the loss of millions of lives this century. The military industrial complex is also the single biggest polluter on the planet (see recent study from Brown University’s Costs of War project). The US. Department of Defense has a larger annual carbon footprint than most countries on earth, and with its global network of bases and logistics networks the US military is the single biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world outside of nation-states themselves1.
And yet, even though the parties trying to form a government talk about strong climate action, the need to address carbon emissions, and far-reaching policy changes to do that across every sector, there is no commitment to stop supporting the US military in their Programme for Government.
The document states that the next government will
- Continue to ensure that all requests for overflights or landing by military or state aircraft are guided by Ireland’s policy of military neutrality
- Ensure that aircraft requesting permission to avail of facilities at Shannon and other Irish airports adhere to strict conditions and that all military or state aircraft are unarmed, and carry no arms, ammunition, or explosives. Any exemptions should be dealt with in an open and transparent way. The State retains its right to undertake spot checks on commercial/civil flights, should it be deemed necessary
There are two major problems with these very weak commitments. The first is that the restrictions only apply to military or state aircraft. This means that 'civilian' arecraft like those operated by Omni Air International that are contracted to the US military and carry armed US troops are excluded for the commitment.
The second problem is that the prohibition on military aircraft being unarmed, and carrying no arms, ammunition or explosives is already stated government policy but regularly breached.
Furthermore, the statement that any exemptions "should be dealt with in an open and transparent way" is something we should not need to see in a programme for government. It's how state operations should work. Sadly it has not been the case so far in relation to exemptions to take arms through Shannon.
This Programme for Government gives us little confidence that things will change.
On the broder issue of Ireland's neutrality the Programme for Government doesn't fill us with any degree of hope either. It says the outcome of a review by a Commission on the Defence Forces "will remain grounded in a policy of active military neutrality and participative multilateralism through the UN and EU". This is confusing, since active neutrality is very different to military neutrality. The former embodies a commitment to the legal definition of neutrality as described by The Hague Convention V, as well as a clear set of values and foreign policy goals that are distinctly different to the concept of military neutrality that successive Irish governments have sought to embrace2. This concept has been redefined to such an extent that we have now joined military alliances like the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) which is the part of the EU's security and defence policy in which 25 of the 27 national armed forces pursue structural integration.
As Roger Cole of PANA said in their press release, the Programme for Government is aspirational with confusing and contradictory positions on Irish foreign policy designed to allow a range of interpretations. As far as PANA is concerned it means increased participation in PESCO, the EU Battle Groups and all those other EU institutions that are the foundation bricks for the creation of a European Superstate with its own army.
We agree with PANA, and are not hopeful that we will see an end to the US military use of Shannon or the restoration of Irish neutrality any time soon.
1. Reference: 'War on the World: Industrialized Militaries Are a Bigger Part of the Climate Emergency Than You Know' The Intercept. Sept 15, 2019. Available at https://theintercept.com/2019/09/15/climate-change-us-military-war/. 2. Devine, K. (2009). Irish neutrality and the Lisbon Treaty. Paper presented at “Neutrality: Irish Experience, European Experience” Conference organised by the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College, Dublin and Dublin Monthly Meeting [Quakers] Peace Committee 8-9 May 2009. Available at: http://doras.dcu.ie/14898/1/Irish_Neutrality_and_the_Lisbon_Treaty.pdf.